The San Francisco 49ers open their Preseason slate against the Denver Broncos tonight. Although it is Preseason and it means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, there is still some things that the 49ers can and will learn from their team and there are valuable reps to be had.
Our List of 5 What To Watch For (Sportscenter Voice):
- Safety – Craig Dahl will get the first shot at starting at free safety, but the Niners didn’t use their first-round pick on Eric Reid to have him get splinters sitting on the bench. Reid will get his first reps in an NFL game and as fellow safety Donte Whitner said, he needs to take his lumps and make some mistakes. It’s better to do it in the preseason then in the regular season.
- Receiver – The Niners are looking for a receiver to establish themselves as the clear-cut receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin. It sounds like San Francisco is giving A.J. Jenkins the opportunity to distinguish himself and hold off the rest of the *healthy* receivers on the roster. Others to watch for are Ricardo Lockette, Austin Collie and Kyle Williams, if healthy.
- Backup Inside Linebacker- Patrick Willis has a broken hand and will miss the remainder of the Preseason and Navorro Bowman has some knicks here and there, but the Niners will need someone to step up and be the backup inside linebacker. Look for Michael Wilhoite, Nate Stupar and rookie Nick Moody to play a lot and try and win the coveted backup linebacker position.
- Punt Returner – In the swirling winds of Candlestick Park, the punt returner position is a huge one (see: 2011 NFC Championship game versus the New York Giants). Ted Ginn Jr. left via free agency to the Carolina Panthers and the Niners believe that second-year player LaMichael James can take over as the punt and kick returner. If James fails, look for defensive back Perrish Cox to get an opportunity.
- Backup Quarterback – San Francisco traded a late-round pick for former Cleveland Browns Colt McCoy, but Jim Harbaugh says it is a dead heat between McCoy, Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels. Colin Kaepernick is said to get 1-2 series and the competition for the rest of the QB spots are up for grabs. Daniels is a “slash” type player and contributes in many different ways, which could lead to him getting a spot on the roster.
Of course the most important part of preseason is staying healthy. The Niners injury bug has taken a big poop on them this year and they haven’t even played a preseason game. So, if the Niners exit the game without any major injuries it will be a successful first game.